THE DECLINE AND FALL OF EMPIRES: A THEORY OF DE-DEVELOPMENT

by Johan Galtung, dr hc mult, Professor of Peace Studies

Director, TRANSCEND: A Peace and Development Network

Written for the United Nations Research Institute on Development, UNRISD, Geneva

Honolulu, January 1996

Tokyo, May 1996

Contents

1. Introduction: Why study de-development?

2. Decline, fall, and the afterlife of empires

3. Toward a theory of development: Some factors

4. Toward a theory of de-development: Twenty factors

5. Ten mini-studies

5.1 The decline and fall of the West Roman Empire

5.2 The decline and fall of the East Roman Empire

5.3 The decline and fall of the Arab empires

5.4 The decline and fall of Spain (la decadencia)

5.5 The decline and fall of the Italian city-states

5.6 The decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire

5.7 The decline and fall of the Chinese Ch'ing dynasty

5.8 The decline and fall of the British Empire

5.9 The decline and fall of the Soviet Empire

5.10 The coming decline and fall of the US Empire

6. Twenty factors, Ten mini-studies and Five reflections

7. A mini-theory of rats, sinking ships, and new ships

8. Sustainability vs. natural death and euthanasia

9. Conclusion: Decline and fall of the global marketplace?

 

 

1. Introduction: Why study de-development?

Development studies often focus on deficits relative to certain goals and on how to make up. Resources can be made available, like capital through savings, grants, loans, investment; human capital through education/skills, health, modern values; fixed capital through technical assistance, infrastructure, etc. One interesting formula is Development = Education/skills + Infrastructure.

Given the development crisis, however, another perspective may also be appropriate. "Development" is positive, carrying an idea of progress perspective. How about studying "de-development", a negative, regress perspective, with decline and fall? As a minimum it might be useful to know how and why things went wrong, trying to draw some conclusions about what not to do. A focus on positive outcomes is needed. But we should also focus on negative outcomes, on what should not be done, not come about, backed by data and theory. Falsification is also easier than verification.

Economists and macro-historians like Edward Gibbon, Carlo M. Cipolla, Mancur Olson, Paul Kennedy, P. Dasgupta have made material and hypotheses/theories available. Their books can be mined for insights in de-development, and their findings can be related to general studies of factors conditioning development.

After looking at about 30 cases, ten cases were selected: West Rome, East Rome (Byzants), Arab Empires, Spain/la decadencia, Italian city-states, the Ottoman Empire, Ch'ing dynasty, British empire, Soviet empire (socialist), and the US empire (capitalist). The mini-studies are superficial, mainly based on Cipolla's major book. There may be other views. But there is sufficient basis to propose a theory of de-development which can then be used as an additional approach, complementing positive development theory.

2. Decline, fall and the afterlife of empires

Our cases are empires and dynasties. That they decline and in the end fall, can be seen as a special case of the more general "law" or principle that nothing lasts forever. Everything is subject to the "Law of Change." But if that is so, this should also be the case for that Law. Its validity should not be "forever". Looking at the list of the ten empires, their creators certainly did not think of their projet as existing on a limited lease of time only. The presumed viability was forever; the project was irreversible. They thought they had created an End of History through a new reality. Reality, however, put an end to their project. Why? How?

One answer: "because of dialectics". Actio creates reactio. Push long enough and counter-forces arise. Empire-building without "pushing" is difficult, to put it mildly. To grow economically some "pushing" is also needed. A single counter-force may not tear down what has been built, being too weak. But in the margin of the system these forces will accumulate and their synergies may ultimately lead to decline and fall as the system exhausts itself fighting or in general trying to control the disruptive forces.

The dialectics is not always based on exogenous, external forces, like "ecological decay", or "the barbarians crashing the gates" (Ibn Khaldun), hammering at the Roman Empire in synergistic ways. The dialectic can also be endogenous, like Marx' theory of rupture when the mode of production no longer is adequate for the means of production. Or Sorokin's "principle of limits": any system will satisfy only a limited range of the broad spectrum of human needs; sooner or later accumulated frustration from the needs left unattended will lead to major upheavals.

And a third possibility: stupidity, the March of Folly.

Such theories are far-reaching, but too general for a theory focusing mainly on the economics of de-development. The range of factors behind the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, for instance, spans far beyond economics, even with a broad definition of that field, into any field of inquiry, like lead-poisoning from the pipe-lines in the Roman water system.

There is much to be gleaned from general dialectics, however, starting by asking a question: "what would a diagram of decline and fall look like?" People usually draw single-peaked curves with birth-growth-peak/maturity-decline-fall/death. The model is human biography. But that should make us pause and think. Is the single-peaked life not a social construction. like in "he reached the high point of his career"? Could we not have multi-peaked lives/empires? How about shifting the achievement criterion, like an engineer-businessman becoming a scientist in the history of his own specialty later on in life? How about empires doing the same?

Moreover, how do we reject any afterlife after death, neither in the form of eternal life "up there" or "down under", nor in the form of reincarnation, nor in the form of rebirth of certain aspects? Is an empire that disappeared but left behind strong memorials and memories, even to the point of becoming archetypal like the Roman Empire, really dead? Do reincarnations like the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation", or Mussolini's short-lived effort, not imply that something was still alive? The Roman Empire was a more or less successfully imitated archetype in all the other nine cases. Is that not some kind of rebirth - and in that case is it Christian (forever), Hindu (intermittent) or Buddhist (partial)? We shall return to this question of after-life, discussing sustainability, euthanasia, and acceptable death.

3. Toward a theory of development: Some factors

Critics of contemporary theories of development generally take the line that "economics is not everything", let alone "the only thing", and charge development theory and practice with "economism". The present author is among them, and this opens for a chance to explore some limitations of that critical approach.

Usually the critique of economics in the development process takes two different forms:

[1] When economics is used as consequence, effect: the critique would be that the goal is not a well-functioning economy, in the black at household, company, country levels, with high and robust growth rates to ensure that it stays that way. The goal is not rich countries, companies, families, but humanly rich individuals. The goal is human development, with nature development (ecological balance as a minimum), social development and world development. Homo mensura, humans are the measures of all things, not something else like an economic system abstracted from human beings. We could expand that concept to include nature development, with a focus on life, vita mensura. Even Protagoras can be improved upon.

[2] When economics is used as condition, cause: the critique points to many other factors conditioning development, also when development is conceived of in a narrow, economic, sense. Nature with its limits, is certainly one; so is the motivation structure in the human Self, in turn conditioned by culture. The location of individuals, households, companies, countries in social and world structures matters. None of these factors, or syndromes of factors, is sufficient. But they are all necessary conditions, meaning that economic development is certainly a necessary, but not sufficient condition for development.

If E is a set of necessary economic conditions for development, D; then this means that D implies E. But then we also have that -E (the negation of any one of the conditions in E) implies -D, and the negation of D is what we mean by "de-development. What we have to do is evidently to try to identify some of these factors or components of E, leaning on reasonable accounts of the decline and fall of economies, even big economies.

This is not a return to any primacy of economics, so dear to liberal/conservative and marxist development schools. But economic factors must be taken explicitly into account. In the eagerness to show that economics is neither everything nor the only thing, many critics read as if economics is nothing. The cut between necessary and sufficient is too sharp, like much of Cartesian/Aristotelian logic. But it points in the right direction.

In that case, following this simple logic above, all we need is a list of economic factors that play at least a subsidiary, contributing role to development. We can then hypothesize that the negation of any factor, singly or combined, on this list would cause de-development. No doubt this is one approach.

Below is an exercise for seven factors found useful in development studies, four of them non-economic and three economic.

Generally, however, this is not the way out. We are always dealing with syndromes of factors. The above logic is too simple. The negation of one factor may be inconsequential if there is enough momentum from the remaining factors. But the negation of a whole syndrome matters. Empirical studies, like our mini-studies, may tell. Moreover, by studying de-development we may benefit from other discourses that include non-economic factors, and that may have some impact on the positive study of development.

Let us look at how some factors--like hard work, savings, greed, inconsiderateness and Q/P, C/N, F/R, explained below--work their crooked ways into this messy field.

Hard work. If production factors are hard to arrive at, the processing difficult and the distribution tiring, then hard work is needed, at least for economic development. But if the factors are easily available, processing is unnecessary, and consumption is on the spot or nearby, where is the necessity for hard work? Or, is development defined so that the necessity of "hard work" is a tautology, making the British Midlands rather than South Pacific Islands "normal"? Is development theory conditioned by the British Midlands? If so, is that not driving imperialism too far?

No doubt Kant worked hard to produce his master-pieces, so did Beethoven. But could it be that we define as an indicator of development only that which has "hard work" as a price? That the type of kindness, for instance, that seems to come more easily to women than to men, and could be seen as a criterion of real human development, does not count if it comes easily, naturally?

Savings. If we live on the margin savings serve as a hedge against such calamities as hunger and disease, and for investment to grow further. But imagine a life with neither hunger and disease next door, nor with any compulsion to grow further. Like a welfare state with those worries removed. Then, why do we need savings? Do we de-develop without them? No, their absence would only be a sufficient condition for de-development if we want more development, or to remove worries. The general logic still holds, only that "savings", like "hard work", fit the wet, cold, foggy British Midlands with little or no welfare state better than a South Pacific island with mutual rights and obligations intact.

Greed. Economic activity steered by need rather than by greed leads to a replacement rather than to a growth economy. The element of greed guarantees a continued search for higher growth. But greed may also come about as a consequence rather than as a condition for hard work and savings. Greed answers the question, why do I continue working so hard, and saving so much, when I have all I need? We can choose to see this like the former US President Reagan once did, "greed and corruption are the price we pay for a free society". Or we can see it as de-development. Only by defining development as economic growth, and not as satisfaction, do we escape a de-development conclusion. In that case we would look at people becoming less greedy as an indicator of coming crisis. And again, only if we prefer a rich society with nasty people in it to a poor society with nice people. Do we?

Inconsiderateness. Economic activity, like medical activity, has side-effects and side-causes, externalities. Some of them are negative, like the greed just mentioned. To go ahead with growth-oriented economic activity a certain blindness to these negative externalities is needed, with shallow justifications, like "the good end justifies the bad means", "eggs must be cracked to make an omelette", or "this will sort itself out in the longer run".

The argument might be that if we really should take into account all negative side-effects then we would never do anything but resign ourselves to our miserable fate. The argument is, of course, a non sequitur: externalities could be taken into consideration from the very beginning, as is done today routinely with some ecological externalities. Potentially this would yield more, not less development. The problem is, however, that economists admit only a very narrow range of externalities.

Q/P, the ratio of quality to price for a product. The higher Q/P, the higher the probability of a deal. And, the more deals, the more growth. But does it follow that if we decrease quality and/or increase prices, then we are on the road to de-development? Can anything be gained by decreasing the quality, meaning functional adequacy, cultural adequacy and sustainability? Well, there is planned obsolescence (low sustainability) as a strategy to sustain production, and with that employment. In the same vein, increasing prices can also be seen as a strategy to decrease market activity in order to cool the economy. Again the answer is not so simple. It all depends. On what? That also depends.

C/N. This is the ratio of culture to nature in a product. Is a product mainly culture, like a CD, or matter, like blueberries? The higher the degree of processing, the better. More revenue can be made at higher levels of C/N, degree of processing. Does that mean that a move downward ushers in de-development? Or, could there be something positive in "back to nature", correcting for too much culture? It all depends. On what, also depends.

F/R. This is the ratio of the finance economy to the real economy. It should be neither too high, nor too low. Does that mean that shifts toward finance economy, as speculation, or toward real economy as a subsistence economy, is catastrophic? Probably not for a shorter period of time. But to live in pure speculation or subsistence forever is a different matter. It all depends.

The conclusion is not so clear. But the first four are indicative of a development theory seriously biased by a hard geography and by a hard bourgeoisie insensitive to the suffering of the inner, the outer proletariat, and nature. The other three, however, particularly when combined, are probably crucial.

4. Toward an economic theory of de-development: Twenty factors

Easier because falsification is easier than verification. We could proceed inductively, extracting factors from each of the ten cases, or deductively, presenting a scheme of such factors, using them to comment on the cases. The author started inductively to identify factors, and proceeded deductively to present the findings. We are dealing with post-, not pre-dictions anyhow.

We first divided the world into two parts, the "country in a process of de-development" vs. "foreign countries/abroad/the context". Self vs. Others, in other words. They relate to each other economically, and also militarily, politically, culturally.

And then we cut into the countries in six different ways:

- humans vs. environment, a rather key inter-face;

- natives vs. foreigners, as foreigners may play a crucial role both for development and de-development;

- center/elites vs. periphery/people, roughly in terms of power - normative/contractual/coercive - and privilege;

- primary, secondary and tertiary sectors of economic activity, meaning extraction from nature, processing, distribution, adding to the tertiary sector professional/cultural activities;

- production factors: nature, labor, capital, technology, management, (N, L; C, T, M), and their availability;

- deep culture, cosmology, for motivation patterns and adequacy.

Given this scheme a necessary condition for development is balance/adequacy for all six divides. But that formula is vacuous if we do not know a priori what that means. In hindsight it is easy to draw the conclusion that there was serious imbalance, but at that time it may already be too late; the decline may be self-reinforcing, irreversible. We should be able to tell in advance.

Twenty hypotheses about de-development, decline and fall:

De-development will take place as a consequence of:

First divide, Self vs. Other: Bad division of labor

I,1: long-term accumulation of foreign debt,

I,2: long-term accumulation of negative externality balances

I,3: excessive military costs keeping other countries at bay

I,4: long-term exploitation of Periphery by political hegemons

I,5: cultural imitation and absence of creativity

Second divide, humans vs. environment: Imbalance

II,6: depletion from extraction

II,7: pollution from processing, distribution and consumption

II,8: general deterioration of diversity/symbiosis, of maturity

Third divide, natives vs. foreigners: Bad division of labor

III,9: long term accumulation of debt to foreigners

III,10: long term accumulation of negative externality balances

Fourth divide, elites vs. people: Bad division of labor

IV,11: long-term exploitation of the people by the elites

IV,12: excessive miliary costs keeping other people at bay

Fifth divide, primary/secondary/tertiary sectors: Imbalance

V,13: neglecting one or more sectors

V,14: foreigners controlling one or more sectors

Sixth divide, production factors: Insufficient availability of

VI,15: nature, internally, through import, or processed abroad

VI,16: labor, internally, foreign workers, or working abroad

VI,17: capital, internally, foreign investors, or invested abroad

VI,18: technology, endogenous, or imported from abroad

VI,19: management, elite, people, or imported from abroad

Seventh divide, deep culture: Inadequate motivation pattern

VII,20: deep culture, too expansionist, or too contractive

But how do we know that a country is de-developing, what are the criteria, as distinct from factors/causes/conditions? If the divides above are the independent variables, and the 20 hypotheses are the mechanisms, then what are the dependent variables?

Here "sustainability" or the classical "reproducibility" enters: when the economy is no longer sustainable/reproducible. A human being can take stock of his/her wellness every morning: am I the same, better off or worse off than yesterday morning? - knowing very well that successive "worse-offs" spell illness, decline and fall, possibly impending death. An economy, a company or a country, takes stock at the end of the year and arrives at the same conclusion. Thus, "expenses exceed revenues" is not a reason for decline, it is a criterion of decline. "Expansion brought economic benefits but incurred military costs, and the latter exceeded the former" is not a reason either, only a way of spelling out that budget more clearly. A possible cause might be that the country was too expansionist (hypothesis VII,20 above), and then start inquiring more deeply into the reasons why.

Massive migration out of the country, or at least out of the cities, by elites or people, is also a criterion rather than a reason, or rather a reading of how elites or people read the situation: the system is doomed. And the same applies to spiritual migration: the body is still in the system, performing its tasks, but halfheartedly since the spirit is anywhere else. Both elites and people are observing rather than participating, drawing conclusions for themselves rather than for society, assessing the right time to leave, to jump the sinking ship.

Demralization, in other words. And, as the saying goes, will the last person leaving please turn off the lights - -

5. Ten mini-studies

5.1. Case 1: The Decline and Fall of the West Roman Empire

The reader will find on the next page (Diagram I) an effort by the present author to summarize much of the literature on the Roman Empire and to go one step further. As the Roman Empire became model for other empires, at least in the West, its decline also became archetype for other declines, defining the discourse. One more example of how the Roman Empire has survived its own demise, dominating our thinking even about the death of empires.

The diagram is divided into three columns. To the right are five indicators/criteria of decline and fall, break-down, failure to be sustainable/reproducible. As mentioned above, we could also talk about dependent variables. The extreme Other, the barbarians, are increasingly successful militarily. The society militarizes to the point that even the emperors are military men. A strict command/control ethos permeates society with rigidity and lack of creativity, except, possibly, on the battle-field. People lose interest and faith. The more imaginative escape to another habitat, the countryside, building alternative societies like the villa romana, thereby also escaping state taxation and the ecological depletion of the soil. Long before that they have become observers rather than participants. What happens in society happens because of "them", never because of "us".

Obviously these five criteria are interrelated in circular loops; they serve as each other's conditions and consequences. These may also be the only five factors visible to the members of society at that time, the causes, and the root causes, being invisible. "Native theory" would cluster around these criteria, to the point of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy about decline.

In the second column, in the middle of the diagram, the reasons/causes are indicated, but as a hypothetical flow chart, not as a list of factors. The basic divides used are between elites and people (here called proletariat), and between natives and foreigners (here called barbarians). The economic model of society is based on the two answers to one question: how does surplus flow to the materially non-productive elites, engaged in political/military leadership, and in cultural production, only. The two answers are: through territorial expansion, conquest, plunder, exacting taxes from the external proletariat (Toynbee), the barbarians; and through slave-based production, paying the slaves little or nothing, living off the added value produced by the slaves, or the internal proletariat in general.

No wonder that barbarians and slaves protested, counter-attacked, revolted. To contain the protests two approaches were used. There were the military campaigns against both. But there were also positive approaches. For the proletariat there was the famous panem et circenses, bread and circus, welfare state and entertainment. And for the barbarians co-optation into the elite, the state and the army. In both cases the idea must have been to give them vested interest in the continuation of the Roman Empire. As they were given channels of mobility into the coveted elit, the elite expanded, became more foreign and more costly to maintain, generating more conquest and exploitation to become sustainable.

The system worked as long as it worked, meaning as long as there was a reasonable balance in the flow chart. The system was remarkably stable, for centuries, and also remarkably fragile, in a state of unstable equilibrium. The implication was that when decline really started it was irreversible. Or so it seemed.

In the first column there is an effort to look for the root causes of the whole phenomenon, locating them in the deep culture of the Roman Empire. The cosmology was centrifugal. That they had not only the right, but even the duty to expand was taken for granted. They saw their own conquest, plunder and exploitation as the best that could happen to the barbarians and the proletariat, probably including the gladiators sacrificed for entertainment purposes. Their whole history from the beginnings around -750 bears testimony to an expansionist or centrifugal mentality, pushing the limes outward; to the British Highlands, the Rhine-Danube and the Euphrates, with an army of 600,000.

In that column there are also two competing cosmologies, barbarian and Christian. The "barbarians" were smaller groups, probably more centripetal in their basic orientation. However, exposed to the contagious expansionism of the Roman Empire, including being co-opted, the Carolingians, the Vikings, and the Franks of the Crusades became no strangers to expansion. And the Christians, not only inner-oriented but other world-oriented in their search for a New Kingdom, became converts to expansionism as Christianity became religio lecita in the Roman Empire (+313). The incorporation succeeded. The Christian successor systems were also expansionist, hence also subject to decline and fall.

And that may be the basic key: expansionism in the deep culture leads to expansion without stop signals leads to counter-forces leads to decline leads to fall after the outer limits have been reached and transgressed. There are in-between mechanisms as indicated in the second column. But the basic conclusion remains that the cause of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was its expansionist deep culture, never questioning expansionism as such.

>From this it does not follow that "contractionism" is the answer. The historical successor was the manorial system, and then the feudal system, and many of the units were very small. The totality, the "medieval system", did not prove sustainability either. Without trade, self-reliant in principle, spending huge amounts of resources on what today would be called ritual, like tournaments, parties, religious ceremonies, they over-used natural resources till the environment could sustain neither itself, nor them. Cultivating the mountainsides did not help much either.

So the serfs left, headed for the city-states and positions at the bottom of artisanry. Ultimately the knights left too, and became troubadours, robbers and pirates, or artisans, burghers.

In retrospect, how could the Western Roman Empire have been saved, have been made sustainable? Here is one formula/answer:

- by exploiting nature in Italy and North Africa less;

- by exploiting the inner proletariat less;

- by conquering and exploiting the barbarians less;

- by keeping a lid on the growth of the elite sector;

- by turning more towards spiritual and away from material values. No doubt this combination would have worked. But then the Roman Empire would not have been the Roman Empire, but closer to its successor system in the Middle Ages. A futile speculation.

A more profound question is why the Roman Empire should be made sustainable at all. The answer is probably affirmative for those training their eyes on the elites and their achievements, negative for those more concerned with what happened to nature, the proletariat and the barbarians. There is something to learn from that about the concept of sustainability. What is so great about sustainability? And - sustainability for whom? Against whom?

5.2 Case 2: The Decline and Fall of the East Roman Empire

This was essentially the Balkans and "Little Asia", Turkey. But they behaved as if they were the Roman Empire after the division was final in +395 and particularly after West Rome fell in +476. They had their own identity centered on Constantinople, the old Byzants, built by Constantin the Great in +330, and on Orthodox Christianity. The Great Schism of +1054 between the Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox) Churches added the religious to the political division, solidifying the faultline through Europe. Losing Asia Minor, and Jerusalem!, to the Seljuq Turks gave rise to the Crusades 1095-1291 that also hit East Rome.

Economically the loss of land meant loss of agriculture, making them dependent on food imports from the outside. Having no ships the trade had to be done by others. To the West they had three competitors, Genova, Venezia and Ragusa (Dubrovnik). What remained for East Rome to do was statecraft, playing Genova and Venezia against each other, giving Venezia concessions to import goods free of duty. Already in 1347 the situation was so critical that the Emperor conducted his wedding in ceramics, not in gold and silver. Finally they were encircled by the Ottomans, and the 1453 conquest by the Ottoman Mohammed II of Constantinople under Constantin XI Palaeologus was only the final death blow.

Past capital and prestige may impress satellites but not the competitors. If the primary sector declines then other sectors have to function to compensate. But they had neither industry, nor crafts, nor trade; only statecraft. To entrust primary and tertiary sectors not only to foreigners but to foreign countries did not work. The miracle is that the empire nonetheless lasted a thousand years till finally the bells tolled in 1453.

 

5.3 Case 3: The Decline and Fall of the Arab Empires

We are essentially talking of the Caliphate, the rulership of Islam by a leader who is both temporal and spiritual. Soon after the death of the Prophet the Caliphate split into the Umayyads, ruling from Damascus, and the Abassids ruling from Baghdad. The Abassids massacred the Umayyads in +750, but some found the way to Spain and continued as the Western Caliphate of Córdoba +712. The Abassids were massacred in +1258 in Baghdad during the Crusades by an alliance of Christians and Genghiz Khan's grandson, Hulaku. Under the Fatimids the center moved to Cairo, taken over by the Abassids in +1171.

In Cairo the Mamelukes, originally slaves brought to Egypt by Fatimid caliphs, were ruling as a warrior caste of landlords with private armies. Economically Mameluke sultans, chosen from the ranks of the warriors seem to have been particularly inept. First, there was the problem of origin, celebrating the rise from slaves to rulers, maybe enjoying the fruits rather than cultivating them. Second, there was the problem of warriors being better at destruction and ruling than at construction and serving, whether the latter is done from the primary, secondary or tertiary sectors of the society. Being inadequate as farmers and traders the whole economy suffered a serious decline from a commercial and monetary economy to a subsistence economy. Local chiefs got feudal rights, meaning thy were more interested in squeezing surplus out of theie serfs than in economic growth. The Portuguese Vasco da Gama, +1497-99, captured the trade between Africa and India.

And in 1517 the death blow came when the Ottomans, following their Constantinople success, conquered Cairo. One lesson seems to be never to leave key sectors to foreigners or/and the military.

5.4 Case 4: The Decline and Fall of Spain (la decadencia)

Few countries have had such access to wealth through theft, after the conquest of most of South/Central America from 1492 onwards, and then wasted it so quickly, as Spain during the decadencia 1620-1690. After the genocide on the dominant indigenous peoples, the Aztecs and the Incas, the rest was up for grabs, including precious metals and jewels. The flow into Spain from the Colonies, mainly through Sevilla, was continuous. And yet, by the end of the 17th century little remained. How? Why?

The general explanation seems to be that an economy based on industry and commerce did not fit into an economy based on feudal agriculture and colonialism. The latter two blended easily, being based on the same concepts of dominio, ownership, of land for agriculture or mining, and of people, as serfs and slaves. There is no need for innovation beyond control to ensure maximum gain. And no search for markets either as the wealth piled up at the feet of the hidalgo, the grande, and the church.

This was being and having rather than becoming. Why should a rich Spanish grande make anything that could be bought from those who had the skills? With that ethos the Spanish never develop those skills, a fact that pleased their competitors in the Italian and Low Countries city-states, and in England, enormously. Experts from their competitors were even invited to make cannon balls, and the trade went to such major enemies as the British. The Spanish gladly gave away more challenges than they stole gold. By 1898-1902 the fall was completed by the USA walking into their downtrodden imperial shoes in the Pacific and the Caribbean.

The lesson seems to be never to give away challenging work; if you do you will suffer serious consequences.

5.5 Case 5: The Decline and Fall of the Italian city-states

The economic decline of Italy, like for Spain, was during the 17th century. Italy was not the primary beneficiary of Spanish "don't manufacture, buy" policies. The major beneficiaries were England, France and the Low Countries. And the net result at the end of the 17th century was clear and similar to Spain:

"From being a developed country, mainly importing primary products and exporting manufactured good and services /banking and shipping/, Italy had become an underdeveloped country, mainly importing manufactured articles and services and exporting primary products".

But not for Spanish reasons. They did no pay sufficient attention to Q/P, quality over price. The quality of Italian textiles was still excellent. But there was the problem of price. The Italian prices became too high, for three reasons:

- excessive control by the guilds, tying Italian manufacturers to old-fashioned production and organization;

- the pressure of taxation in the Italian states;

- labor costs too high relative to other countries.

But behind these well-known factors something else was lurking.

Thus, could it be that they were the victims of their own tremendous success in earlier centuries? That they considered themselves to be basically invulnerable, having nothing to learn where production and organization are concerned? Could it be that the city states and labor also felt that way, that the textile industry was so secure that they could easily take on more taxation and still pay higher wages? The result was the end of "her career as a country, once depressed and overpopulated".

The lesson seems to be never rest on one's laurels, to watch both Q and P, and remember: customers are treacherous people! They may vary both Q and P so as to arrive at a better Q/P themselves.

5.6 Case 6: The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire

There were beginnings before 1453, but the real rise and expansion came after that fall of the Byzantine Empire. Having conquered Syria and Egypt, Sultan Selim I also assumed the Caliphate, ruling over major parts of Asia, Europe and Africa. But in the 18th-19th centuries the Ottomans lost to Russia in the Russo-Turkish wars that lasted almost two centuries, and also lost Greece and Egypt. The Balkan wars (1912-13) and World War I (1914-1918) led to the beginning of the end in 1918.

Much of the warfare was with military defeat, but much of the dynamic was economic. Three basic factors are known to us.

First, the Ottomans created an elite corps of civil servants and military, the Janissaries, based on war captives and abducted Christian youths from the Balkans, marched far away from their families and raised by the Ottoman State. The Janissaries had the power to make and unmake sultans. There were some similarities with the Mamelukes in Egypt, rightly or wrongly suspected of disloyalty. In +1826 the Janissaries were massacred by Sultan Mahmud II in their barracks; fifteen years after the founder of modern Egypt, Mohammed Ali, had done the same to the Mamelukes.

Second, Ottoman society was long on religion, government, war and agriculture, but short on industry and trade. A dangerous formation in a period when European empires developed industry and trade. Consequently the status as industrialist and trader had to be filled by foreigners, among them Armenians. Jews evicted from Spain had played important roles financing the Ottoman Empire, and Europe beyond that. When the natives fail to learn and change, the tasks and fruits of modernity accrue to foreigners and foreign countries instead. Classical.

5.7 Case 7: The Decline and Fall of the Chinese Ch'ing Dynasty

The fascinating account by Ping-Ti Ho will be used in the following, with the usual caveat that reliance on one author always is dangerous. His account starts describing the wealth of China at the end of the Ming (1368-1644) and the beginning of the Ch'ing (1644-1912) dynasties, with fabulous accumulation in some families, with long-distance and inter-regional trade, and with guild-halls in commercial centers.

And then came five reasons for decline from the 18th century, culminating in the Taiping/Great Peace rebellion 1850-64:

- the best way of getting rich was to buy the privilege of selling staples, like salt and tea, under government monopoly;

- the profit was not reinvested in commercial and industrial enterprises that were less profitable than money-lending and tax-farming. Rich people preferred to buy official ranks and titles and encouraged their sons to become degree-holders; in addition conspicuous consumption played a role;

- with no primogeniture wealth was shared within families and clans, meaning that there was no great accumulation at one point;

- Confucian values rewarded the learned and studious, not the hardworking merchant. Philosophy prevailed over technology;

- the most powerful economic control was exercised by the State, giving a choice between bureaucratic capitalism (the solution during the Kuomintang dynasty) and bureaucratic collectivism (the solution during the Communist dynasty).

Lesson: hard work, savings, greed and inconsiderateness on the top led to an economic growth insensitive to stop signals. The Age of the Merchant; followed by the Age of the People as Sarkar predicted, the Communist dynasty. With its decline and fall.

5.8 Case 8: The Decline and Fall of the British Empire

The UK was the Center and exemplar par excellence of archetypical modern Western imperialism modeled on the Roman Empire. On the next page (Diagram II) is an effort to summarize some thinking on the problems of imperialism, and to go one step further. The diagram is similar to Diagram I for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Similar phenomena demand similar models.

There are some differences, relating to "modernization".

The materially nonproductive elite now divides into state bureaucrats, corporation capitalists and intellectuals, all three at national and transnational levels. Modernity differentiates, but also integrates across borders. The native protest against geopolitical expansion, and the inner proletariat protest against capitalist socio-economic expansion, have Roman Empire dimensions. Military and police punishment expeditions in the colonies join with welfare, entertainment and sport strategies to placate the inner proletariat. A costly system, in a precarious balance.

The centrifugal cosmology of the modern West is then held responsible as the root cause, defining expansion as normal and natural. There are challenges from such non-Western cosmologies as Buddhism, and to some extent Hinduism, both found attractive by less expansionist Westerners, particularly by women. And there are sectarian countertrends within the West, like the Green movement.

The outcome was inevitable: the system collapsed. By the 1960s colonialism was almost gone. But the British economy made up for lost markets in the EU/ACP system. And the major threat to common people was not the loss of empire, but the loss of welfare.

Lesson: don't have empires, also for your own sake. You may get into trouble. But the fall of empire may be your new beginning.

5.9 Case 9: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Empire

The problem of the Soviet Union may not have been too much planning, but too little. With, say, 400 people in gosplan and the socialist planning commissions, planning for 400 million in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the 400 were obviously over-challenged and the 400 million under-challenged. But even this key externality, challenge, did not enter their planning. They had very narrow visions of the economy, just bringing production factors together to produce, with little or no attention given to distribution and consumption. The plans were production plans.

And countless externalities were left unattended, eg.,

- in nature: depletion and pollution, including toxic pollution;

- in humans: boredom, withdrawal, apathy, general demoralization; - in society: a top-heavy, centralized, non-participatory society run by the Russian nation controlling other nations, the city controlling the countryside, the bourgeoisie the proletariat, and the bourgeoisie having nothing to buy because the C/N was too low;

- in world: a confrontational foreign policy run by the Soviet Union controlling and intervening in satellite countries;

- in time: a rigidity making social change very difficult;

- in culture: linear marxist visions, the Stufengang, on rigid narrow tracks, and a basic contradiction between myth and reality.

With such matters left unattended tensions accumulated. The society did not produce enough surplus to bribe everybody and lost the Stalinist nerve to suppress. Due to low level international trade they could not do what capitalism is good at, exporting negative externalities, like toxins, letting others abroad suffer.

Accumulated pollution led to diseases, adding to the general demoralization. Topheaviness deprived them of initiative which also was largely forbidden. Confrontations led to a very costly arms race. Rigidity and linearity deprived them of hope. Finallly, the fall was imported from other, peripheral, socialist countries.

Lesson: socialism, better at material basic needs, pays less attention to externalities, does not export them, and breaks down.

5.10 Case 10: The Coming Decline and Fall of the US empire

Let us try the three economic factors on the US economy:

SYNDROME DIAGNOSIS

THERAPY

Q/P no dignity for workers;

respect for skilled work

syndrome bad or no trade unions;

company+national unions

very short term contracts

more life-long contracts

bad pay means no respect

higher minimum salary

bad CEO/worker income ratio

improve the income ratio

low level education

improve lower education

disastrous media, TV

moratorium on some media

boring, degrading work

increase challenge level

bad health, absenteeism

social security for all

junk workers, junk work

go in for quality in both

 

C/N profit above challenge

go in for both

syndrome low C/N exports (not arms)

increase the level

high C/N imports

reindustralization

too much military work

liberate R&D from military

too much secrecy

lift the secrecy

L cheap, no T-incentive

make Labor less cheap

CEOs C&M- not T-oriented

more engineers as CEO

CEOs too much power

flatter organization

R&D far from marketing

decrease distance

excessively free trade

selective protectionism

junk work, junk products

go in for quality in both

   

F/R CEOs C&M- not T-oriented

moratorium on some CBAs

syndrome quarterly reports

onger time perspectives

finance-trading too easy

make it more difficult

too much speculation money

incentive for production

junk products, junk finance

go in for quality in both

Cardinal shortcomings of the mainstream US economy:

Q/P syndrome: inattention to quality of labor; inattention to unemployment as reason for L-intensive, T-extensive production;

GNP does not reflect quality, only quantity of products marketed; economists underestimate the significance of the working class

C/N syndrome: inattention to degree of processing, "it does not matter whether we make potato-chips or micro-chips"; inattention to spin-off effects; GNP does not reflect degree of processing;

overemphasis on free market and trade regardless of product level.

F/R syndrome: inattention to the F and R difference; GNP does not reflect difference between F and R; economists overestimate the significance of economists, and serve their own capitalist class

Key blocks: class society; greed/inconsiderateness; media power; expansionism; militarism; patriarchy; CEO'ism; serving dividend interests of stock-holders, not of workers; extremist economism.

As the therapies are unacceptable, the prognosis is military and finance economy because Q/P and C/N are too low to compete, crash of finance economy because F/R is too high, recession, depression.

6. Summary: Twenty factors, Ten mini-studies and Five reflections

DECLINE AND FALL: AN OVERVIEW

In [4] above twenty factors in the life-cycle of an empire were explored, and in [5] above ten mini-studies were presented.

This table is an effort to summarize the findings:

West Rome

East Rome

Arab Empi-res

Spanish

deca-
dencia

Italian

city-states

Ottoman Empire

Ch'ing Dynasty

English

Empire

Soviet

Empire

USA

Empire

No. Yes

1

No

Yes

No

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

4

2

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

10

3

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

7

4

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

No

3

5

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Y/N

9.5

6

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

2

7

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

3

8

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

No

2

9

No

Yes

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

3

10

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

8

11

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

8

12

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

5

13

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

8

14

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

5

15

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

No

No

3

16

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

6

17

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

No

5

18

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Y/N

8.5

19

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

9

20

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

9

Yes

17

16

13

8

5

15

10

11

11

12

118

YES: a major issue NO: a minor issue, or none Y/N: Yes and No

The vertical reading informs us how narrow or broad the causation behind decline and fall was for each mini-study; and the horizontal reading informs us about the relative prevalence of the factors. Both readings will be used for the reflections.

Needless to say all 200 judgments are problematic. Each cell could easily be the subject of one or more books (some of them have already been written). But the focus here is on the pattern more than on any single judgment. The assumption is that even if each judgment is not very robust, conclusions based on patterns may be.

Here are the five reflections, with care and reservations:

[1] No single factor theory has emerged. No single factor, with score 10 and score 0 for all others, explains the decline and fall of all. No. 2, "long term accumulation of negative externality balance" has scote 10, but it is not alone. The narrowest syndrome, for Italian city-states, has five of the ten factors operating, and in the broadest syndromes, for the two Roman Empires, 17 and 16 of the 20 factors respectively have been recognized.

[2] We are not dealing with tautologies.

Factor No. 2 may sound close to a tautology, but there is content in "long term", "negative", and "externality". The short term may not be that dangerous. Strong positive side-effects of economic activity may balance the negative externalities. Implied is also that monetized parts of the economy, internalities like the national account balance, are not the only factors that count. But a factor like "elite demoralization", certainly present in all of them at some time, would have been a part of the description, even definition of decline and fall, and not have explained anything.

[3] There is a causal syndrome with a clear message/logic.

If we draw the line at score 9 four factors (Nos. 2-5-19-20) account for 37.5 of the 200 connections, or 19%; not very high. But if we draw the line at score 8, a causal syndrome of eight factors (Nos. 2-5-10-11-13-18-19-20), or 40% of the 20 factors, we can account for 70/118 = 59% of the connections identified.

That syndrome can now be summarized as follows:

- a division of labor whereby foreign countries, and/or foreigners inside one's own country, take over the most challenging and interesting and developing tasks, given the historical situation;

- a deficit in creativity related to a deficit in technology and good management, including foresight and innovation;

- one or several sectors of the economy neglected or lagging;

- and, at the same time, expansionism as ideology/cosmology, exploiting foreign countries and/or one's own people inviting negative, destructive reactions.

Clearly, if the system "took a sabbatical" and rested to restore itself, then some deficits may be rectified. Thus, it looks as if the combination of economic deficits with expansionist immodesty summarizes this syndrome. Obviously, if the elites are unable to manage, suppress their own people, leaving important tasks to foreign countries and/or foreigners rather than to their own people, then the end must be near. Where is the source of renewal in that case? No internal challenge-response dynamics?

[4] The systems vary in the scope of the explanatory basis; some (like the Roman Empires) having a very broad base, others (like the Italian city-states) a more narrow base. This, however, is certainly also a function of the lore that has developed in the historiography of the decline and fall of the systems: the more people and disciplines involved, the more factors. Some appear over-explained: the oldest for the reasons given, and the most recent because they are parts of contemporary debate. Some others that fall between these two chairs may be under-explained. There is a methodological danger here: whoever searches sufficiently long for any factor will probably finally identify also that one.

[5] The broader the base of factors, the more inevitable an impending death, the narower the base, the less inevitable. A sick empire is like a sick human being: the more pathologies, the more inevitable and hence more acceptable the death. There is nothing that can be done anyhow. To sustain is to prolong suffering, not vitality. To speed up the decline for the two Roman Empires, giving space for others, appears more rational than artificial longevity.

On the other hand, Spain and Italy might have been sustained using simple measures, like more self-reliance and more willingness to take on new challenges for Spain, and labor market flexibility and entrepreneurial freedom for Italy. The measures would have saved millions, and generations, from centuries of decline.

The first conclusion from all of this is obvious: the pathologies have to be nipped in the bud, at an early stage, and above all before they spread like metastases. Sustainability presupposes sufficient health to be able to resist multiple shocks from syndromes. A high level of immuno-deficiency is catastrophic.

The second conclusion is equally obvious: in some cases the system may have come to a point of no return. The system is not sustainable, regardless of how strong the desire for eternal life, or a more modest lease on eternity, might be. Like for human beings the system may be headed for what is often referred to as natural death, close to the concept of "acceptable death". The system has completed its life-curve (single-peaked in the Occident), and there is no clear successor. And the end is due to a broad syndrome of causes, not one single cause for which a remedy might be found.

The third conclusion is more problematic. Sustainability is a part of the issue. But is sustainability itself sustainable? Or, is another concept knocking on the door: euthanasia for societies?

7. A mini-theory of rats, of sinking ships and of new ships

These are ten stories of sinking ships, and ships usually harbor rats known to leave sinking ships. But who are the rats, and what do they do after leaving the sinking ship? They probably do not leave to drown, but possibly to find a new ship and a new life?

The immediate answer would be to find a new ship, although some rats may prefer dignified suicide to a life in the ruins of their own creation. There are exceptions like the captain of the sinking ship, the last one to leave even at the risk of joining the ship on its way down. Like ship captain, like captain of the state ship, the head of state. In principle. But in fact he often prefers escape and ends up as a monarch in exile, unable to find new ships. Better a life in faded splendor than death or suicide.

But we are thinking of more dynamic rats, not of aristoc-rats or bureauc-rats, but of creative clergy and intellectual ratss, and indeed entrepreneurial merchant rats. Each imperial decline creates its exodus and its diaspora. The question is, what kind of talent left, and where did they go? Regardless of the answer, this is clearly an illustration of Buddhist rebirth rather than Hindu reincarnation, let alone Christian eternal life.

The system does not reincarnate with many of its original features intact. By dying the system liberates creative energy, in the form of a diaspora which then starts working somewhere else. The obvious prognosis would be [1] given reasonable conditions they will probably succeed, [2] if or when there is no success they will probably leave the new sinking ship. Once a rat always a rat.

A major importer of rats leaving European sinking ships has been the USA. But the USA may also one day become a net exporter if the decline in mini-study 10 broadens and deepens further.

What people can do, countries may also do. Societies are to a large extent center-periphery systems with the center defining the problems and how to solve them, and the periphery doing the menial tasks of implementing the decisions. In the same vein, the World is to a large extent a Center-Periphery system, with the Center deciding what to do, giving minor roles to the Periphery countries, e.g., as defined by Ricardo's comparative advantages "theory", or ideology rather, of international trade.

But what happens if the center of society, or the Center of the world, declines? The social periphery may decide to leave, and vast caravans, trains of people, migrants in search of work and more promising conditions elsewhere will accompany the decline. The center minority may try to keep the migration within bonds, by sheer force or by the Toynbee formula, responding creatively to the crisis challenge by initiating new departures to convince the majority that they are still in command of the situation. Maybe they have three chances. After that, the periphery leaves, if not physically by migrating, then spiritually through lost allegiance.

Satellite client countries in the Periphery may do the same. They watch for the signs, and may decide to turn from a former Center to a new Center, like Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union to the EU and the USA. Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand, parts of the UK Center-Periphery system may look to Japan for new roles. Norway changed her allegiance from the USA (before that the UK, before that Sweden, before that Denmark) to the European Union. The latter seem better at practicing Toynbee. One Center elite may not be able to convince its Periphery, but by pooling together they may come up with a more attractive formula, like the Yaoundé-Lomé system for the African-Caribbean-Pacific countries.

Looking at the list of cases it is obvious that there are some genealogies at work. A major function of a dying system is to leave the scene, providing a niche of new economic opportunities to others. Brutal, but "such is life". "Decline and fall" is only one half of the story. The other half are the new ships, boarded or not by old, partly recycled, rats.

And thus it was that West Rome yielded to Franks and Gauls, and in the longer run to the Carolingians. Two centuries after the fall the Umayyad Arab empire of Damascus, defeated by the Abassids of Baghdad, changed the gap in Spain into the Caliphate of Córdoba (712). A dying Byzants had to yield to the triumphant Ottomans, and Spain to the Italian (and Low Countries) city-states and to the UK. The Ottomans had to yield to Russia, and to the Habsburgs and UK/France. And UK and Russia's successor, the Soviet Empire, had to yield to the USA. And to whom will ultimately the USA be yielding? To an expanded EU, to an East Asian Community, or both?

China has her own logic. The Ch'ing dynasty did not yield to any other country (except, for a short while to UK/France and some others), but to the Kuomintang dynasty, which in turn had to yield to the Communist dynasty; in both cases for much more than economic reasons narrowly defined. Precisely for this reason China has to be conceived of as a diachronic chain of dynasties rather than as a synchronic system of competitors, struggling over the same space.

This serves to relativize the concepts of decline and fall. A human being falls ill and dies, the family or somebody else fills the space. Societies also have families, inside their territory, or outside. None has a claim on eternal life. The death cause is interesting among other reasons to know whether euthanasia and midwifery would be the solution. Which is the Marxist thesis.

In the Marxist proposition Marx projects on World history a Hindu cosmology: reincarnation at a higher level, ending in Nirvana (Communist society), and no more reincarnation. Marx differs from Ibn Khaldun; there are no barbarians knocking on the gates till they fall down, and from Sorokin and Sarkar in being more linear. Each social formation, up to but not including communism, runs through the cycle of birth-growth-peak-decline-fall-death. But then at the same place a new formation is ushered in by endogenous dialectic and forces. The working classes do no leave but pave the way for that new, higher level, formation. That idea must have been attractive to Chinese seeing history as a chain of one dynasty after the other. And the great Chinese macro-historian Ssu-Ma Chi'en long ago entertained ideas of progress within this chain.

So there is decline and fall, but maybe no death, and what looks like death has its own metaphysics and metaphors. The only religious metaphors that do not fit come from Christianity and Islam: an eternal afterlife, with two varieties: in heaven, and in hell. Translated into empires, what would this mean?

Eternal life in heaven must be what they all probably were hoping for: to become irreversible, never disappearing from Earth. Eternity was not so much in Heaven as on Earth, implying that they had a mandate from heaven, that they were gratia dei.

Eternal life in hell must be the opposite: to have been so reversible as to disappear completely, leaving almost no traces, condemned to oblivion. The Nazi and Soviet empires? And the US?

Reality, it seems, is neither one nor the other, but an afterlife after decline and fall, with reincarnation or rebirth, at a higher or lower level, depending on their merits, at the same place or somewhere else.

8. Sustainability vs natural death and euthanasia

Hopefully the reader emerges with some more understanding of how empires come to an end. Beyond the logic of warfare there is an economic logic, whoever breaks it does so at considerable risk. The wayside of history is littered with empires, and there is space for many new ones as history unfolds.

How does the sustainability of the 1990s, in UN documents, in new disciplines and institutes, hold up against our findings? Is the concept of "sustainability", as slogan, itself sustainable?

The preceding section gives some insight in where the concept belongs: as one more secular Western effort to bring about eternal life. We say "secular", or "modern". Before the "enlightenment" there would probably have been less concern with eternal life on earth, Reality being transcendental anyhow.

If we look at the ten cases again the important question is, of course, what would have been gained by making them, and not only their economies, sustainable? Are we so sure about the idea of mastering the techniques whereby the Roman Empire, West or East, would still be with us? When we remember what that social formation meant for the slaves and the barbarians?

Imagine that not only they but the regimes to follow learn the lessons from the 20 hypotheses in section 4 above and bring about good division of labor with foreign countries, with foreigners inside their own lands, between the social classes and bring about balance with the environment and among the sectors of economic activity, and in addition to that ensure that production factors will be available from here to eternity. Would that constitute a better human history than we have had? Probably not because of the many other aspects of human society and those empires in particular.

A Roman Empire that functioned better ecologically and economically in general would still be a Roman Empire, a massive Center-Periphery configuration with flagrant inequities between and within countries/provinces. There would still be slaves and barbarians, probably even more of them, with limes even further out and more exploitation, with a better Center economy available.

The same applies to all the other cases because they all have something basic in common, pointed out in connection with the Roman Empire: expansionism in their deep cultures, whether as military expansion, political hegemony, economic growth at the expense of others (from whom the surplus is extracted), and/or as cultural mission civilisatrice. As they expand they sooner or later hit the ceiling, the outer limits, problems start accumulating, and decline and fall set in. Sic transit gloria mundi.

But China? China is more flexible, actually remarkably non-expansionist given its size. Moreover, decline, fall and reincarnation take place, but are, like for the Egyptian empire, masked by the dynasty formula creating continuity over time.

To try to make these empires sustainable without changing their code (deep culture) is at best naive, at worst an effort to keep alive what perhaps should better decline, and then fall. Did we really want to keep the Soviet Union forever, by solving one of its colossal problems, the environment? We could make sustainability very many-dimensional, but aren't we then saying that we have found a utopia that should be granted eternal life?

Maybe any social formation has a limited lease on life, like human beings? And, could gentle euthanasia sometimes be a better approach than sustainability or natural death? Like nonviolent gandhism administered to the British and the Soviet empires?

9. Conclusion: The decline and fall of the global market-place?

What would be the implications of all of this for the ultimate empire, the integrated world economic system, the global market-place, broadening and deepening under the name of "globalization"?

Globalization would seem to satisfy the decline syndrome:

- a division of labor whereby foreign countries, and/or foreigners inside one's own country, take over the most challenging and interesting and developing tasks, given the historical situation;

- a deficit in creativity related to a deficit in technology and good management, including foresight and innovation;

- one or several sectors of the economy neglected or lagging;

- and, at the same time, growth and expansionism as ideology/cosmology, exploiting foreign countries and/or one's own people and nature, inviting negative, destructive reactions.

Obviously, the first three points would apply to most non-OECD countries in the world. Foreign OECD countries in general, the West in particular, and often the USA/UK even more particularly, would monopolize the secondary and tertiary sectors of economic activity, meaning technology and management in a broad sense. But their bridgeheads in the non-OECD periphery would not necessarily be "foreigners". They could be nationals, but for all purposes acting like foreigners, possibly on behalf of a corporation with its center abroad rather than on behalf of a foreign country.

There is no doubt that the local elite just described will "do well", nor much doubt that the national gap in acquisitive power will increase and the livelihood at the bottom deteriorate. The country will be heading not for decline and fall as an empire, not being one. but for the position as a "failed state", and more so the more emphasis there is on expansion, meaning economic growth as opposed to economic distribution. The country will have no self-correcting, self-improving capacity and invites revolts from below. There will be massive emigration from all layers of society, from impoverished masses to elites afraid of massive revolts.

But how about the OECD, and the Western, and the US/UK, and indeed the USA Center? There is a certain ambiguity here.

On the one hand they enrich themselves by keeping control of the economic sectors with the highest value added because secondary and tertiary sector outputs have more specificity and can demand higher prices whereas primary sector products is "merely" nature, with laughed or no specificity. Even nickel is nickel. Oil varies in quality, but not as much as cars.

But on the other hand they may risk destroying the periphery to the point that there is little more to fetch from a polluted nature and an impoverished, ailing population. And they may also treat their own periphery the way they treat the world periphery, meaning in both cases that they do not have enough purchasing power to buy the products offered on the markets. The result will be overproduction relative to buying capacity, deflation, and recession that may easily turn into depression.

The basic element in the image of an alternative is a world where each part, down to confederations of neighboring villages, is its own center. Concretely, following the conclusion quoted above, this means avoiding any division of labor that give very important positive externalities to the external and internal "abroad", keeps all three sectors of the economy intact, retains innovative and managerial capacity, and abstains from exploitation of external and internal peripheries. That economy may be short on certain products but high on satisfaction of basic needs and on sustainability, less in need of any euthanasia or midwifery.

A number of countries have practiced such policies, including the USA roughly speaking 1850-1900. Problems arise when they deviate from that pattern. This study is intended as a warning.